My dream has always been to live beside a big beautiful lake. I missed my chance by not being around in 13,000 B.C. when global warming caused the towering Wisconsin Glacier to melt and retreat northward from Morris County leaving an enormous puddle stretching from Parsippany to Paterson. Geologists call this now large underground body of water “Lake Passaic”. The Lenni Lenape Indians weren’t going to arrive for thousands of years so I would have had my pick of lakeside lots back then. Just my luck.
I got a second chance in 1933 when the New York Daily Mirror, a tabloid newspaper, created a smaller lake called Parsippany by digging out and flooding 160 acres of pasture land and offering lakeside lots at $98.50. Of course there was a catch. You had to buy two 20 x 100-foot lots and a one-year subscription to the Daily Mirror which then sold for about two cents an issue. I was only three years old then so where was I going to get that kind of money? And I’d have had to pedal 35 miles from Fairview on my tricycle. Just my luck.
I finally moved to Lake Parsippany about 30 years later and eventually, as a reporter, interviewed two of the original real estate agents. By then, Dean Gallo Sr. and Alex Epstein owned separate agencies. I also spoke with George West, a 1933 lot buyer and former Lake Parsippany Property Owners Association (LPPOA) official.
The lots weren’t selling like hotcakes Eckstein said at the 1966 interview. With the Great Depression still going strong in 1936, the price dropped to $69.50 and by 1940, with 3,000 of the 7,916 (20-foot wide) lots still available, the price was reduced to $49.25. Eckstein said he bought a parcel in 1966 for $4,500 which he’d sold in 1933 or $245.50. Gallo remembered that lot owners could buy a shell of a new house in 1933 for $750 or a finished one for about $2,000 “with plumbing and all”.
The Daily Mirror’s promise of “the good things in life” was a bit of an exaggeration according to West who recalled there was no electricity and no telephones until 1937. And if you didn’t dig a well, he said, you had to lug water from the LPPOA’s clubhouse on Halsey Road. Everyone joined the Association back then, he said, because it was the only provider of garbage collection.
Conditions are a great deal better now. The LPPOA is one of the state’s best family recreational bargains. So don’t count on Lake Passaic coming back. We’ve got global warming again, but there are no nearby melting glaciers. It’s not going to happen.